WESLEY CHAPEL — Gaither has been in many more district races than Wiregrass Ranch, a sixth-year school. But it was the Cowboys’ anxiety that led to an uncharacteristic four errors in Tuesday’s pivotal Class 7A, District 9 matchup.
Host Wiregrass Ranch scored an unearned run in the bottom of the sixth inning for a 2-1 win over Gaither. That makes the Bulls (11-2, 5-1) front-runners in the district while the Cowboys (9-5, 2-2) are near the bottom. The rematch is April 10 at Gaither.
“It wasn’t pretty and that’s what you expect out of two teams that have the records we have,” said third-year Wiregrass Ranch coach Jeff Swymer, who got his 50th win on March 15 with a 10-0 shutout of Pasco. “Any district game, ain’t none of these teams in our district are easy.”
Alex Goebel led off the bottom of the sixth with a grounder to shortstop Oscar Mercado, who made his second error of the night. A fielding error by pitcher Evan Gainey followed and Joel Marin drew a one-out walk to load the bases. Pinch-runner Chris Sifford raced home on a wild pitch for the winning run.
Wiregrass Ranch left-hander Ryan Kopenski (5-1) pitched three innings of scoreless relief, allowing singles by Jake Gowen and Randy Oliva in the top of the seventh before working out of that jam.
“It’s the biggest game we played so far,” Kopenski said. “I had to come in and locate; just try to get ground balls.”
Gaither took a 1-0 lead in the third off starter Zack Drury when Oliva led off with a double to rightfield and scored on Hayden Kelley’s single to right.
Wiregrass Ranch tied it with a run in the fourth. Marin walked with two out, advanced to third on an infield error and scored on a wild pitch.